When booking my trip to Winnipeg, I realized that I could save a lot of money by flying back on a 5:30 am flight with an 11-hour layover in Vancouver. Having never been to Vancouver, I was intrigued to visit.
October 21, 2023: A Taste of Vancouver
My flight from Winnipeg landed at 7:00 local time. The sun had not yet risen.
As chance would have it, my friend Keyon was visiting family Vancouver and had the morning free. He was not on social media, and I found out he was around just by chance texting him a couple days prior to check in.
I took the train from the airport into the city center where Keyon picked me up. We then drove to Stanley Park, Vancouver´s premier city park and crown jewel tourist attraction. Stanley Park was rated as the world´s best park according in the inaugural TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards in 2013 poll beating out Central Park and Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The park takes up an entire peninsula northwest of downtown.
Named after Lord Stanley, the governor general whose name also graces the NHL championship trophy, Stanley Park is mostly untouched forest. Surrounding this forest is an 8.8-kilometer seawall with walking and bike paths. In Spanish, this would be called a Malecon.
After walking along the seawall and soaking up the incredible skyline views, we cut into the forest before returning to our car. Along the way we stopped at the iconic totem poll collection.
Keyon then dropped me back off in downtown and headed off to meet his family. While very clean and nice and full of tall buildings, there wasn´t much to do. The one attraction I could find was the art museum, located in an old distinguished neoclassical building like big city art museums are. After paying the steep $29 fee, I was shocked to learn that there is no permanent collection on display but rather 3 temporary exhibits. The three exhibits were an Iranian-Canadian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli, a progressive perspective on “Whiteness” and a room of paintings by BC artist Emily Carr. The entire museum took me 30 minutes to see, partly because one entire floor was under renovation. Additionally, the elevators and half of the staircases were non-functional, making the place feel like a giant construction site. All in all, this was the worst big city art museum experience of my life, and I cannot in good conscience recommend this museum to anybody.
Not wanting to spend any more time in downtown, I walked to Granville Island. Trying to avoid paying for a water taxi, I walked on a viaduct that ended up adding 20 extra minutes of walking. Eventually, I made it.
Technically a peninsula and not an island, Granville Island is located just across False Creek from downtown. It is best known for its ever-popular public market which is very similar to Seattle´s Pike Place Market in that locals probably never go here.
Inside the market were produce stands run by Chinese ladies with fruit stacked in impeccable pyramids as well as a wide variety of prepared food stalls. The most popular of these stalls was Lee´s Donuts. I waited 10 minutes and got a slightly above-average donut.
Shimmying through the crowds, I found myself at a soup shop which sold a highly rated seafood chowder. There wasn´t much seating inside so I sat on a bench outside and admired the stunning skyline of downtown while avoiding the aggressive but cute birds.
Besides the market, Granville Island has a large beer garden, art galleries and fishing charter boat companies. The island appears to be the main tourist hub and has a cool industrial/fishing vibe.
Just south of Granville in the residential Fairview neighborhood, I stopped by the fish & chips shack Go Fish. I ordered a “tacone” which is a fish taco but the tortilla is rolled like a cone. It was delicious and I could tell the fish was fresh.
From Go Fish, I noticed a beautiful walking path along False Creek. I took it for 45-minutes until I reached the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Based on the recommendation of my MBA friends Alex and Brigette, I stopped at the Brassneck Brewery. Per tradition I ordered a flight and send a picture to my friend Joe Craig.
The plan was originally to then go to a second brewery, but I received a surprise text from my college friend Sarah who lives in Chile. She had just arrived in Vancouver after road tripping all the way from San Francisco. We met at a random café near the airport and chatted for about an hour before she dropped me off at the terminal to fly home.
Vancouver seems like a wonderful city. It is clean, the surroundings are beautiful, it is among the most diverse places on earth and seems to have good infrastructure. The biggest downside I kept hearing is the price of real estate which I luckily did not have to deal with on my layover. While I visited many of the city´s biggest attractions, there is still a lot left to see in Vancouver and in the region. I barely scratched the surface and would go back in a heartbeat.